Complainant faces cross examination at taxi driver's assault trial
Former taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi arrives at provincial court in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019 for his retrial on a charge of sexual assault. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)
Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, January 10, 2019 11:52AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 10, 2019 5:55PM EST
HALIFAX -- A defence lawyer appeared to suggest Thursday that a woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a Halifax taxi driver removed her own clothes inside the cab.
The complainant has told Bassam Al-Rawi's retrial that she was drunk at a downtown nightclub on May 22, 2015, and has no memory of being found unconscious and mostly naked in the back of his vehicle on a dark street in the city's south end.
Defence lawyer Ian Hutchison made a series of suggestions during cross examination in Halifax provincial court, including that the woman kissed the taxi driver on the cheek, ear and neck during the ride from downtown Halifax.
"If I was to suggest to you that it was in fact you who pushed your pants down, would you be in a position to disagree?" Hutchison asked.
The woman, now in her late 20s, replied: "No."
Hutchison also suggested that the woman exited the vehicle at one point and urinated, and that she had put her feet up on the front seats of the vehicle and kicked her sandals off onto the driver.
The complainant told Judge Ann Marie Simmons she could not disagree with the suggestions.
The woman has testified she does not remember leaving the bar and has no memory from when police said they found her passed out and mostly naked in the back seat of a taxi, the driver between her legs.
Al-Rawi faces a charge of sexual assault, after an acquittal was overturned last January by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.
The appeal court concluded the judge that presided over Al-Rawi's first trial in March 2017, Gregory Lenehan, erred in law by finding there was no evidence of lack of consent.
The woman has testified that she lived several kilometres from where police found her in Al-Rawi's taxi.
Hutchison asked if it was possible that she was confused about where she lived, but the woman disagreed, saying that despite being intoxicated, "I've always found my way home on those occasions."
In his decision at the first trial, Lenehan said: "Clearly, a drunk can consent," a remark that sparked a national debate over intoxication and the capacity to consent to sex.
An independent judicial review committee last year dismissed several complaints against Lenehan, saying it found no evidence of impermissible reasoning or bias in his ruling.